What Does Religion Have To Do w/ Politics Anyway? (More than I Thought As It Turns Out)
I’ll be the first to admit that I have a very complicated relationship with organized religion and religious doctrine, ideology, dogma, etc. I grew up in a semi-religious household — my mother a practicing Catholic, my father a non-practicing Jew. I was raised Catholic. I went to our church’s equivalent of Sunday school, I sang in the church choir, I loved going to church on Sunday, I read the Bible on my own volition, and I joined a small group within my church’s youth group. Somewhere around the time I turned 16, I started to have doubts about religion — about my devotion to a church with some many rules and regulations about life, a life I had really just started to live. I disagreed with so many of the church’s political leanings and interventions as well as its archaic views on families, gay marriage, women, and the right to choose. By the time I turned 18, I pretty much stopped attending church all together, and religion fizzled out of my life — or so I thought.
My relationship with politics, on the other hand, has always been fairly straightforward. I’ve been working on political campaigns for 10 years, in one capacity or another. As much as I love to hate politics, I love to love them more. I’m a news junky and a policy wonk. I love to scour the Internet for hours reading editorials by political commentators. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve solidified my views about the world, about this country, and about humanity generally speaking. Until recently, I’ve spent little time connecting this part of my life and the latter part.
This election cycle has helped me to come to terms with my morals and beliefs. It has undoubtedly (and somewhat uncomfortably) made me question my political ideology. At the risk of sounding foolish and sentimental, I dare say that I’ve done some real introspection and questioning of myself — who I am and what I believe. In the process of doing so, I’ve come to understand that my Catholic upbringing has shaped so many of my morals and beliefs, and that in rejecting all of the things I didn’t believe in or agree with, I also failed for so long to understand that I took many of the good parts with me when I left the church.
The majority of my social justice views are based in my religious upbringing: offering a helping hand to others, making sure to always have empathy, bringing happiness and joy to others, alleviate suffering whenever possible, loving even those who I disdain, treating others as I would want to be treated, having a duty to take my blessings and extend them to others, etc. The list goes on and on.
And, in this realization, I can’t help but understand how they relate to my political ideology. I want to help people in poverty. I want everyone to have the chance to get a world-class education. I want people to earn a wage on which they can support their families. I want to ameliorate unemployment. I want to eliminate systems and ideologies rooted in bigotry, racism, misogyny, and classism. I want everyone to have access to world-class healthcare. I want to protect the environment….
The funny thing about Conservatives calling themselves Christians is their perverse notion of personal responsibility. Christians believe that one’s personal responsibility is a collective responsibility — to extend a helping hand towards the world as a whole, to make the world a better place for generations to come. Yet so-called Conservative Christians cling to an antiquated notion of personal responsibility rooted in rugged individualism and an idealism of a fabricated American Dream and American exceptionalism.
The reason I’m writing all of this is because in all of my introspection, it became clear to me that Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who truly holds all of the same values as I do. If he’s elected, I see a brighter future for this country that has lived much of its existence in the shadow of darkness for all the pain it has inflicted and continues to inflict on the suffering, the vulnerable, on the outsiders. I want Bernie Sanders to win. But, more importantly, we need him to win. Humanity needs him to win.
My mom always told me that she raised my brother and me in the church because she wanted us to have a strong moral foundation and the ability to answer the big questions of our collective existence with some certainty. And it may have taken me a while, but I realize that’s exactly what it did.